Canada finance minister sympathizes with Wall Street protests
OTTAWA — Anti-corporate demonstrators in New York on Thursday got a sympathetic nod from Canada’s chief moneyman, Jim Flaherty, who said he understood their “legitimate frustrations.”
About 600 people have been camping out in New York’s Zuccotti Park more or less permanently since the Occupy Wall Street occupation was launched almost one month ago on September 17, becoming the epicenter of an anti-corporate movement that has spread to cities across America.
“I can understand some legitimate frustration arising” out of high US unemployment and an increasingly unequal distribution of incomes, said Flaherty.
He noted that Canada’s progressive income tax system, where higher incomes are taxed at increasingly higher rates, somewhat hinders such wealth disparities.
“Having said that, I see a point that income distribution is important and there’s a concern that a very, very small group of people have very large incomes and that others do not have those same opportunities,” he said.
“I think it’s incumbent on governments to ensure that there are opportunities for people to exercise their talents.”
Flaherty rejected one of the demonstrators’ demands — that the G20 should introduce a tax on financial transactions. Canada previously successfully led a campaign against a similar proposal.
He said it would be “counterproductive” to reduce banks’ capital and liquidity by taxing them more heavily, in essence leaving them less cash to loan and help spur economic activity.
“It smacks of some sort of punitive action that makes no sense in economic terms (or) to avoid another financial crisis,” he said.
The New York demonstration has swelled to several thousand during marches, and has struck a powerful note among US politicians and the media.
Smaller sister demonstrations have also popped up in cities across the country, with more scheduled in Canadian cities on Saturday.